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IP/08/1594

Brussels, 28th October 2008

European Commission launches new Citizens' Energy Forum to work for more choice and better deals for EU energy consumers

EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and the Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs opened, today in London, the first ever meeting of a new Citizens' Energy Forum, a platform designed to implement and enforce consumer rights on the energy market across the EU. The aim of the forum is to tackle consumer problems and propose practical solutions so that current EU-wide consumer rights exist in practice and not only on paper and improve regulatory conditions in the retail markets. The Forum brings together national consumer organisations, industry, national regulators, and government authorities to work on key issues such as switching energy suppliers, user-friendly billing, smart metering or protecting vulnerable groups.

“High energy prices are one of the top issues of concern to European citizens. We need EU wide efforts to raise standards on a range of issues from clear billing, to smart meting and switching suppliers so that consumers have real choice, can reduce consumption and get value for money. We need to watch the energy market carefully to take action against possible abuses. And we need to put protection for vulnerable consumers at the top of the political agenda in what will be a tough winter ahead." said EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

"Given increases in energy costs and the recent events in global financial markets, it is essential that we work closely together to protect the interests of consumers and deliver real outcomes that can make a difference for our citizens. The inclusion of consumer representatives for the first time as such a forum will introduce a new dynamic and provide a meaningful voice for consumers in the energy market" said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The Citizens’ Energy Forum has been launched to help consumers by working to enforce their existing EU-wide rights and to provide them with clear, straightforward information on what choices are available to them when it comes to buying their gas and electricity. The idea of the Forum was proposed in the Commission's 3rd package for the internal energy market and was presented by Commissioners Kuneva and Piebalgs at the May 2008 conference on Energy Consumers’ Rights. The forum will develop recommendations aimed at better implementation and enforcement of the rights of energy consumers, and better electricity and gas retail markets.

Topics which will be discussed in the Citizens Energy Forum:

  • Billing: a gas or electricity bill is the simplest and best indicator of energy consumption for the average consumer; the bills must be simple, accurate and allow comparisons between providers;
  • Energy efficiency: labels on the efficiency of energy-using appliances must be simple and clear;
  • Switching suppliers: switching must be easy, swift and free of charge; information on how to switch must be clear and accessible;
  • Smart metering: new technologies can help improve accuracy of bills, easier understanding of how much you pay, and enable companies to better advice consumers according to their consumption profile.
  • Protecting vulnerable consumers: people who depend on energy to survive must be protected; the forum will address questions such as: how to avoid disconnection for people using heart and breathing support or undergoing dialysis? How to deal with people who are in financial difficulties and cannot pay their energy bills? National authorities, consumer organisations and industry should work out solutions to this issue.

The Commission has calculated that, with smart choices, an average EU family can save 1000 euros or more in gas and electricity bills per year. The impact of such choices is all the more important given that around 40 per cent of the EU's energy is used in buildings – including our homes and businesses. The resulting cuts in carbon emissions are a further positive spin off.

Background

In parallel, the EU will continue to watch energy markets, and comprehensive market monitoring consumer data - gathered by the European Commission – indicating how gas and electricity markets are delivering for consumers, will feed into the work of the Forum. This data will be published annually as part of a broader market monitoring analysis "The Consumer Markets Scoreboard." Member States will also report to the Forum on their monitoring of household prices, switching rates or complaints, a new power given to them under the Third Energy Package.

European Commission’s website for energy consumers’ rights –

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/energy_policy/consumers/index_en.htm

European Commission’s campaign website for energy consumers’ rights and opening of the energy markets –

http://www.agathepower.eu/


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